‘60 V-200 White Lightning!

Oyster60V200

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What a great idea to have these restoration threads! Back when I did my first restoration of my ‘71 Saab 96 in 1999, I posted to an online forum weekly and it kept me on track to know that other people knew what I was supposed to be working on. If only I had such devotion to White Lightning, but that is why I’m here. A word of warning, I am known to write a lot! I am very prolific in that department and I enjoy it. Many on the Saab forum did when I posted back in the day before life got in the way. To those who didn’t I said, you have my blessing not to read on. But if you have some time to kill, here we go! And enjoy the vicarious ride...The story of White Lightning...

I got my oyster white 1960 Valiant V-200 in 1997 from a family friend named Rich who was relocating out of state and needed to get rid of his favorite car, affectionately called “White Lightning.” Rich was the second owner of this car, having bought it at an estate sale in 1969 with 9300 miles on it. His friend bought the old lady’s other car, a Lincoln Continental. Rich made it through ‘Nam as a Huey dust off pilot and the V-200 has the stickers on the rear window to prove it, along with a Huey door release pin as the key fob. Rich always garaged “White Lightning” during winter to avoid the tin worm. In 1983, he put away White Lightning for the year and his wife gave birth to his first child. He also had a much nicer “winter roach” during ‘83 which was a square bodied Chevy pickup. So when spring ‘84 rolled around, White Lightning sat in a barn with a horse painted on the door under a cover. ‘84 came and went. So did ‘85 and ‘86 and two more children. White Lightning sat and sat. Rich moved to a bigger house and had White Lightning flatbedded to its new location. Its bias ply tires were flat and so was the battery. It took up its new residence in a detached garage under a cover and continued its slumber. 1997 arrived and was rough on local business. Outsourcing caused a vibrant local toy manufacturer where Rich worked to lay off hundreds of employees. Rich quickly found a new job but it was out of state. White Lightning, clearly no longer in cherry condition, needed a new home. At a family party that Rich attended, the subject came up regarding my love of all things automotive, and my desire for a classic American land yacht. While not quite a land yacht, Rich told me that if I wanted it, I could have White Lightning. All he asked was first right of refusal should I sell it. Of course I said yes.

Retrieval was not as easy as we thought it would be. Rich assumed it would start right up like the VW Beetle in Woody Allen’s Sleeper. Such was not the case. The tires were so dry rotten they went completely flat in under an hour. The battery a crusty rock formation of acid crystals. I swapped in a fresh battery and turned the key. A straining sound came from the big starter. “Just a little rust in the cylinders from sitting” Rich said hopefully, his face starting to fall. I grabbed the fan belt to cinch it up on the balancer for a good old hand spin and nearly broke my wrist. This baby was stuck! A wrench on the balancer only succeeded in threatening to break the bolt off. I resolved to Marvel Mystery Oil it when I got it to my shop at my dad’s property. The big dotted rubber brake pedal sank to the floor. That was no surprise. But the parking brake pedal was free and the rear brakes worked. These were the days before I owned a car trailer, and the tow vehicle in the family was my dad’s ‘87 Chevy S-10 2.8. It was automatic but at least it had towing gears! Traveling only a little over a mile to my dad’s, We did a tugboat tow (old tires tied to the V-200 front bumper and the S10 rear bumper) with a tow strap and my dad drove the S10 while I piloted the V-200 with one hand on the parking brake release lever and one foot on the pedal. It was a harrowing ride, but we made it without getting pulled over or causing damage to either vehicle or anyone else’s. Once at its next home, I excitedly went over my new acquisition like the 18 year old I was. “This is sweet!” I said to my dad, who shook his head, thinking the Exner styled “compact” with the toilet seat on the rear deck lid was the ugliest thing he had ever seen. I loved the cat eye tail lights, the push button tranny, and the bench seat. It was so different from my ‘71 Saab which I also loved, that so clearly resembled a small airplane fuselage. Rich came up later in the day to say goodbye. He was moving in two days. Although he put on a strong visage, I found out from my mom that he was brought to tears when the car left his driveway. A softie by nature, this sentimentality jumped to me by osmosis and I told myself I wouldn’t do anything to screw up White Lightning. I shot the cylinders full of that funky smelling Marvel Mystery Oil and jacked the passenger’s side of the car up at a 30 degree angle so the Valiant was a slant V-200 with a straight six! It sat like that for two weeks while every day I tried the balancer pulley with no success. The rancid 14 year old varnish in the gas tank drained out the gas cap and bubbled the faded oyster white paint and killed the grass. The bloom was falling off this rose fast for me. After two weeks of no luck with the mystery oil, I lowered the starboard side back to earth and removed the head. Time to go nuclear. I got blocks of solid quartersawn oak and placed them in the cylinders, full of a mixture of cruddy carbon and redolent of mystery oil. I lightly tapped each one and tried the balancer. Nothing. Tapped harder. Nothing. Whacked the oak until it split. Nothing. Tried a metal bar. Nothing. This engine was LOCKED!! I resolved to find another slant six. It was only 1997 and the darned things were still everywhere to be found. I could get a 225 while I was at it.
The Valiant was pushed to an empty lot my dad said I could use to build a temporary garage since my shop space at my grandma’s was going to be put on the market and I’d soon be garage less. There it sat for the remainder of 1997 into 1998. My grandma’s place sold in mid 1998 and I was graduating high school too. I bought a 22’x24’ CoverIt tarp building and set it up on the #3 railroad gravel lot I had been loaned. I quickly improved this building by paving the shop floor in asphalt and building a wooden knee wall 4 feet high to set the tarp roof on so I had some decent headroom. This place was nice! Some T-12 fluorescent lights along the ridge and I was in business! That summer I found a 225 in the Classifieds from a 1981 Dodge van with a broken tail shaft on the tranny. The guy was putting in a 318 and practically gave me the slant six. It had a crappy rusted chrome valve cover, but a new carburetor and I saw it run before he pulled it for the swap. My cousin helped me load it up and we deposited it in the wagon of my John Deere lawn tractor where it sat until I had time for the swap. Weeks later, I pulled what was left of the 170 from White Lightning and cleaned up the engine bay. I dropped in the 225, stupidly forgetting to swap torque converters! I was 18, and new to American iron and automatic transmissions. And I was the only person in my family that could turn a wrench. Working at NAPA helped, but I still made the mistake. I found out, after installing the starter, that the ring gear didn’t agree with the starter. When I told my MoPar buddy who worked at a tranny shop, he corrected the error of my ways, but it was too late. “Those early pushbutton Torqueflight “B” trannys are weird! They have this odd u-joint thing at the tail shaft. They’re definitely not a regular 727.” Thanks man... White Lightning remained dead but with a big pig of a 225 badly installed. I went off to college that fall and the Saab needed a lot of care as I drove it a lot. Engineering school definitely didn’t agree with me, or the Saab. White Lightning sat.
I switched to architecture school at UB and moved back home. The Saab required a full restoration following the wear from driving it so much. This occupied most of 1999. 2000 brought renewed interest in White Lightning. I gutted the mouse pee smelly interior, saving the headliner for patterns and texture, and removed the crumbly rubber floor mat/liner. The pans weren’t perfect, so I turned to welding them. During that time, my MoPar friend scrapped his Dart Swinger and switched to a Dodge Neon. I still cringe at the choice. I loved his Dart. Grandma green with black vinyl roof. He sold me the 225 with Super six manifold and Holley carb for just $75. The 8.75” rear axle and super sport springs for $100. And he threw in some steel 14” wheels. I cleaned up the engine in preparation for the swap, but decided to go through the whole car and repaint and restore it properly... or so I thought. I removed the 7.25” axle and sad saggy springs and air helper shocks that leaked out in less than a day. I sourced blue poly bushings and new window seals from Bluestar Spares in Australia of all places. They even customized my bushing kit to include spring bushings for the 8.75” axle. I put the whole shell of the Valiant up on heavy saw horses. Began changing the front control arm bushings and cleaning up the shell, discovering the car had been painted at least once before and had a lot of brown Rustoleum primer which I hate. I began to sand to bare metal. Then I met a girl in architecture school who wasn’t very good at building studio models. I was going to architecture school for two. You guessed it. White Lightning suffered. I switched my daily driver to a 1990 Jeep Wagoneer Limited XJ. The Saab underwent another more thorough restoration in 2001. The V-200 was exiled to a lot behind the shop. Glass less and open, with just a tarp covering the dash, and a quick shot of primer over the bare steel, White Lightning was looking very sad. The girl I was dating failed architecture school and was kicked out and we called it quits too. I finished restoring the Saab in a hurry, again to impress another girl and the V-200 continued to sit and house hornets. I met my the woman who would be my wife in 2004 and spent that year driving every weekend to Chicago where she was getting her master’s degree. Having a car that got decent mileage and didn’t break down became paramount. Projects like White Lightning seemed so... 2000. I bought a ‘81 VW Rabbit Convertible from a Saab friend of mine who was relocating and that took over commuting duty. My girlfriend and I eloped in Chicago in 2005 and after she graduated we bought a house in my hometown...with no garage. My shop time got less and less. I bought another Jeep Cherokee XJ. The Saab awaited a true “mature” restoration that involved lead and no bondo. The Valiant continued to sit. I used the front seat as a couch in my shop. And it sat some more. As work as a budding architect and construction manager took all my time, car work became reduced to basic maintenance and survival welding. Patching frame rails on the pair (I bought another) of Jeep XJs my wife and I drove in the winter became a yearly ritual. Usually around New York Inspection time. In 2011, during a particularly heavy March snow storm, my sad and tattered CoverIt building, once my pride and joy, collapsed like a giant sat on it. Fortunately, the Valiant was still out back and the old VW was on a car trailer inside and the roof poles came just short of hitting it when they crashed down. I salvaged what I could and moved everything off the lot except the Valiant and my dead hulk of a 1990 Jeep which had broken in half while moving, of all things, the Valiant, from behind the shop back in 2008. My dad had plans for the site. A big parking lot for guests with lights in the trees and everything. He called me to move the Jeep and Valiant while my wife and I were out to dinner. I got his message the next morning. He had hired a guy with a fork truck to pick up my Jeep and Valiant and move them off the site to the adjacent swamp. He could wait no longer. The Valiant’s perfect spare tire well was crushed like a tin can and the axle was buried in putrid muck. I was too dispirited to do anything about it and just sad that it had come to this. I understood in a way only a son could, that my dad had been patient allowing my “temporary” shop to exist for the last 13 years there, but this destruction was just sad. And the grand parking lot never materialized. Finally, in 2015, I resolved to grow up and consolidate every possession I had and bring it to my still garage less house. If I couldn’t store it on my own property, I shouldn’t own it! Lots of steel ended up at the scrap yard, including the hulk of my Wagoneer. (Fully stripped and salvaged of course) getting old White Lightning on my dual axle trailer was no easy feat. It had no rear axle, and it’s time in the swamp had seized the front spindles whose tires resembled rancid dried prunes by this time. The worst part? The rear frame rails had completely rotten away due to their close proximity with soggy mud. Ditto to the crushed spare tire well. I realized then that this car might not make it. It took me nearly two hours with a New Holland front end loader to maneuver the V-200 between the fenders of my trailer. Chained down, White Lightning moved to my house in town just a block and a half down the same street that Rich lived with the barn with the horse on the door where it began its long sleepy journey to restoration nearly four decades ago in 1983. I backed the trailer up to the back of my property and jacked up the rear axle area high in the air on a strong wooden beam on two cribbed piers just like a house getting a new foundation. There it sat for 2016, 2017 when we welcomed our first born, 2018 and 2019. As I steadily improved the back yard, I realized that “something has to be done about the Valiant.” Wearing a dark green tarp that used to be part of my CoverIt garage roof, it really was looking low rent. Then this period of weirdness we shall not mention began in March and I suddenly was forced to have a lot of time on my hands. Craigslist became my friend. I looked up various car names just to “see what was out there”. I rarely typed “Valiant” but in late April, I did just that. The yawning maw of a first generation Valiant appeared! And it was a 1960! And it was under four figures! I made contact with the seller and visited it. It was a “spring blue” or “kitchen blue” V-100. Off the road since 1998, very rusty, original seats in a shed in the backyard, original tires in the back of his pickup! The V-100 had 57,000 original miles, but was a rusty disaster. K-frame almost loose from the body, torsion mounts long gone, body hanging together by the roof panel. But it had the original AM “Valiant” radio, a new gas tank, new rear springs on a good 7.25” axle, and various bits and pieces that White Lightning needed to awaken from the dead. I bought it then and there and retrieved it in late April. The engine was free spinning too! Got it home and put in a battery. It cranked, but didn’t sound very good. I hooked up a remote starter switch and cranked watching the points arcing to ground. Tightened down the condenser ground, and filed up the points. Put the cap back on, stuffed the broken fuel line into a bottle of fresh gas. Cranked the engine and it roared to life! Overexcited, I jumped in and pressed “D”. I forgot about the brakes. The car lurched forward and drove off the trailer, the bench seat rising and falling with the rotating driveshaft. I was a bit shaken and stunned but just so excited to finally “drive” a Valiant, even if it was a clapped out V-100 parts car. It took me 23 years to get here! I winched the car back on the trailer and jacked up the rotten torsion bars and K-frame onto concrete blocks. I lowered the old V-200 off its wood beam and cribbing onto a floor pan and rear axle of a dead Jeep Cherokee. I realized how easy it would be to make a 4WD Valiant from a Cherokee if someone wanted to do it. But I’ll keep my Valiant a Valiant and my XJ Cherokee an XJ though. The next step will be swapping the spindles off the V-100 onto the V-200 so it can roll kind of. Then fenders and doors off and body on its side for a thorough rebuild and refabrication of the rear frame rails. Then swap in the V-100 axle and springs, driveshaft and Powertrain. And continue the full bodywork that was started and stopped back 20 years ago. Like I wrote on the welcome wagon sub forum, I just want to get it up and running, brand new brakes and lines, maybe the body straight and in primer and respray the interior tin it’s original red. Register/insure/inspect and work the bugs out and then upgrade from there. The 225 from the Dart, complete the interior (seats look like they may be a challenge but I want the original red pattern it came with if at all possible). My wife loves this car and that is also a great thing. She wants to drive it across country for a tour of the USA some summer in the not too distant future. So I am stoked (I hate that term but there, I just used it sounding like I’m a ski bum) to get this build underway. Stay tuned. I promise the posts won’t be this long in the future, but the saga of White Lightning is a long and tortuous one and if you find it interesting, it’ll be my pleasure to have you along for the ride.

-Charlie
 

Oyster60V200

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Hi guys,
Pictures definitely to follow! When I sat down to write this dissertation, I had no idea it would reach such proportions, and wrote it on my iPhone X! I think I discovered small bones and joints in my wrists and hands I never knew existed until they started to hurt like hell... so being away from the mother ship computer didn’t allow me access to my pics. I’ll definitely add some from White Lightning’s better days in the ‘90s and some more sad decrepit ones from today that will serve as “before” pictures. I can’t believe I didn’t photograph the “slant V-200 with the straight six” because it was a sight. So more to come. Thanks for the interest!
 

Oyster60V200

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IMG_6578.JPG
Here are some photos after rescuing White Lightning from the swamp on July 4, 2015. Not a pretty sight. A squirrel or other very large rodent made a mess out of the front seat necessitating tearing off the upholstery to the springs. That nasty synthetic 70s seat material ended up right in the garbage can!
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Oyster60V200

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Picking up the V-100 parts car in late April this year. Good front brightwork and correct 1960 bumper (White Lightning has an incorrect '61 without the little overrider "teeth" which I prefer. Then again, I like 1950 Buicks so that would naturally follow... That's a ratcheting tie down holding the doors shut. It's got a broken back for sure!
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Oyster60V200

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White Lightning looking very sad in what I'll call a "before" picture. It was, from the time it was rescued from the swamp in '15 until this spring, a seat storage room for interior parts from other parts cars. That's an early '80s VW Rabbit seat behind the steering wheel. Fenders are surface rusty but very solid as is the entire front subframe. It's the rear subframe (the easier of the two, IMHO) that needs a complete rebuild. Brown Rustoleum primer is revealed under a poor respray. This will necessitate stripping to bare metal. All the doors, fenders and hood are solid.


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Oyster60V200

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White Lightning before disassembly in 1999.jpg

This is White Lightning pretty much as found in 1997, photographed here in 1999. Dull oyster white paint and a seized 170 slant six and mouse pee musty red interior with ugly faded re-covered seats. Fortunately for this V-200, my neglect through the years avoided what I call the "douche effect" of what teenagers often do to old cars. Weirdo interior fabrics (often spray adhered), hacked wiring harnesses, and stupid "performance" mods that ruin the character of the car. Despite the neglect leaving the car with a lot of work to do, undoing douche hack-jobs can be a lot more work. I have such a task for my Saab 96 which got the "full douche" serving as my first car and daily driver throughout my teens and early twenties. No such task for White Lightning!
 

Oyster60V200

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Axle swap summer 2000.jpg
Here is White Lightning during summer 2000. Axle is out and 8 3/4" axle is in background ready to be installed. That's my Saab 96 in the background and even further back is my friend's Dodge 600 convertible with a blown Mitsu 2.6 head gasket looking for free labor. Below is the Super Six 225 from my friend's '71 Dart Swinger ready for install. It has the V-200's ancillaries attached like the high mount alternator and power steering pump (White Lightning has power steering) As mentioned on the Welcome Wagon forum, I will probably make this engine look even more like stock with the original 170 tin and maybe even breather pipe and change the later Chrysler blue to early MoPar red. I might even adapt a stock air cleaner to the Holley 2 barrel carb. I will also install a Flowmaster 44 and larger diameter pipes like I have on one of my Cherokees. It makes a six sound very nice.
Swinger 225 cleaned up.jpg
 

Princess Valiant

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View attachment 1715530968 Here is White Lightning during summer 2000. Axle is out and 8 3/4" axle is in background ready to be installed. That's my Saab 96 in the background and even further back is my friend's Dodge 600 convertible with a blown Mitsu 2.6 head gasket looking for free labor. Below is the Super Six 225 from my friend's '71 Dart Swinger ready for install. It has the V-200's ancillaries attached like the high mount alternator and power steering pump (White Lightning has power steering) As mentioned on the Welcome Wagon forum, I will probably make this engine look even more like stock with the original 170 tin and maybe even breather pipe and change the later Chrysler blue to early MoPar red. I might even adapt a stock air cleaner to the Holley 2 barrel carb. I will also install a Flowmaster 44 and larger diameter pipes like I have on one of my Cherokees. It makes a six sound very nice.
View attachment 1715530969
A Saab 96 is my only non American dream car I have ever had hopes of finding.

Extremely elusive in Colorado and most of middle America.

Dang, I like your taste in cars. Subscribed!

You must have typed for a few hours straight in this thread though, wow......
 

moparmat2000

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View attachment 1715530968 Here is White Lightning during summer 2000. Axle is out and 8 3/4" axle is in background ready to be installed. That's my Saab 96 in the background and even further back is my friend's Dodge 600 convertible with a blown Mitsu 2.6 head gasket looking for free labor. Below is the Super Six 225 from my friend's '71 Dart Swinger ready for install. It has the V-200's ancillaries attached like the high mount alternator and power steering pump (White Lightning has power steering) As mentioned on the Welcome Wagon forum, I will probably make this engine look even more like stock with the original 170 tin and maybe even breather pipe and change the later Chrysler blue to early MoPar red. I might even adapt a stock air cleaner to the Holley 2 barrel carb. I will also install a Flowmaster 44 and larger diameter pipes like I have on one of my Cherokees. It makes a six sound very nice.
View attachment 1715530969
Looks like it was in pretty good shape back then. And you had a pretty decent portable shop to work out of.
 

Oyster60V200

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Saabs and Valiants.jpg
[ATT
A Saab 96 is my only non American dream car I have ever had hopes of finding.

Extremely elusive in Colorado and most of middle America.

Dang, I like your taste in cars. Subscribed!

You must have typed for a few hours straight in this thread though, wow......

Much appreciated! Glad to have you along. Saabs (95s and 96s at least) are getting tougher and tougher to find since they, like MoPar A-bodies, were so reliable they invited neglect and rust. When I was visiting Breckenridge, a block up the road from our rental property was a Saab 96... but that was back in 2001. Time flies! Here is a photo that really ties Saabs and Valiants together (although that looks like a Lancer!) As a Saab and Valiant aficionado, I love this picture.

Just a totally random aside, but as I typed this up, I heard a very loud grating sound that kind of sounded like a very heavy wind gust and a snow plow with the blade set far too low. It's 65 degrees so definitely not a plow. Saw fire trucks racing past my house. Turns out there was an 11 car train derailment with the locomotive ending up in the parking lot of the local Subway restaurant. Weird times!!
 

Oyster60V200

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I figured it was time for an update, although I can't say that much has been accomplished to White Lightning. More in preparation for its next workspace location. I should probably mention that I own a house that has no garage (yet) and I manage to work on my fleet either outdoors or in a tiny cramped Harbor Freight 10x17 tent. Since I am an architect, the design keeps changing for the dream garage which I will hopefully one day be able to afford, but a 1.5 or 2 car detached garage will likely be built in the next two years if things keep going well in my business, and that is probably where White Lightning will cease being "rusty Lightning" and get finally painted. But enough dreaming, back to reality.

There is a tight spot behind my garden shed clear of prying eyes where White Lightning will be moved, rolled on her side, and have the rear subframe and trunk floor completely re-fabricated and installed before I then take the V-100's 7.25 axle and new springs (not the usually tired and flat springs we tend to see on these early A's) and finally get an axle bolted to the car. Then it'll be on to brakes, engine bay, and interior as I've mentioned earlier in the above "dissertation." So in preparation for V-200's move from the back corner of my lot to the area behind the shed, I needed to get a parts vehicle that was occupying that space "processed" and gone. It was a 2000 Jeep Cherokee XJ with a blown engine that I bought for parts for my two winter daily drivers (both '98 Cherokee XJs). Yes, I like MoPar sixes! I gutted the interior and boxed everything up, cut off the roof, and cut the truck in half just behind the transfer case. The rear floor pan (once I cut out the sills, C-D pillars and B-pillars and rear doors) and axle was re-purposed as a dolly for the V-200 which, as mentioned before, has very rusty rear sub-frame rails and no rear axle. So this was rolled under White Lightning, and for the time being, the V-200 has a Corporate 8.25" rear axle, which I believe somebody else on this forum has actually installed on their
Valokee.jpg

A-body. I told myself that I couldn't buy the V-100 from Craigslist until I got rid of the silver XJ. Well, that turned out to only become a half truth. When the day arrived to pick up the V-100, the XJ was only half dismantled, consisting of the very greasy front half that also contained the blown 4.0 engine. It would take me another month to completely strip that part of the truck, but as of last weekend, I can say it is 100% done. Out of curiosity, I wanted to see what a blown 4.0 looks like so I started by removing the head. I was expecting a detached piston/broken rod. I found piston #2 completely missing but the rod and wrist pin just still in place in the cylinder, not bent or broken. The piston was another story. Broken into tiny bits that made their way into the crankcase and sump and ultimately stopped the crank. Yeah, it was ugly! So the old silver XJ is finally gone and White Lightning's place of re-birth is ready!

But before that was to happen, the stuck front wheel needed to be freed up. The flat and nasty tire, the same one that was on the car when I got it from Rich 23 years ago, was still there, only much more flat and much more nasty.
flat tire.jpg
Two of the four lug nuts snapped upon removal, and it was discovered that the seized wheel was not from a stuck spindle but old brakes that had not been removed when I initially dismantled the car 20 years ago and had fused to the drum. Easy. I took a prybar, pulled the drum, and removed the shoes and hardware. I had never seen springs as hold-down nails before, but I imagine this system works well as long as said springs don't get too rusty and break! I took the front wheel and drum off the V-100, and swapped it and now, White Lightning is a free roller for the first time in 20 years!
new wheel.jpg
 

shimos

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Great to see your build. Keep at it. I started my build in 2003. Had to stop in 2012 but have been back at it recently. Lucky I am not in a hurry.
 

Oyster60V200

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Great to see your build. Keep at it. I started my build in 2003. Had to stop in 2012 but have been back at it recently. Lucky I am not in a hurry.

Thanks for the words of encouragement! As you can see, I need them since this project is now in its 24th year! Geez, when I bought my first car, my '71 Saab, back in 1995, IT was 24 years old! Time flies, and I need a garage! Hopefully this summer...
 

Dartsun

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I like the old toad valiants look forward to your build. That is a record long first post at the top. Holy moly
 

str12-340

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Subscribed to the Continuing Saga of White Lightning!

I'm a sucker for cars with a backstory...
 

65dartcharger

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A Saab 96 is my only non American dream car I have ever had hopes of finding.

Extremely elusive in Colorado and most of middle America.

Dang, I like your taste in cars. Subscribed!

You must have typed for a few hours straight in this thread though, wow......
Let me know if you need Saab part, I live in Sweden.....!
 
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